It is a year since the death of an inspirational theatre director and teacher, and his widow is struggling to come to terms with her loss. A group of close friends, many of whom are or were actors, come to spend the weekend with her to offer their support and to celebrate his memory in an entertaining and moving performance before they scatter his ashes in the garden. The events of the day trigger different responses from all of them and bring to the fore their dreams, disappointments and unfulfilled relationships; in coming together they attempt to find consolation and some kind of resolution to the complications of their own lives. BACK TO THE GARDEN is both a meditation on love and loss and an evocation of the joys and sadnesses of later life, and these themes are explored with humour and tenderness by the improvising cast.
This film is the third in our trilogy, all shot in Kent and made for very little money, shooting over a short period, using long takes, digital camera and improvised dialogue. This way of filmmaking has to be seen in the context of artistic freedom. Many of the actors we work with experienced the extraordinary flowering of alternative theatre in the 70s, enabled by Arts Council funding of new work. Everything is now so much more controlled, that to get a film made can take years of compromise, disappointment and self-censorship. The liberation of working like this, with no outside interference or aesthetic constraints, means that everyone's creativity can be released and we can continue to make films, even in these locked-down times.
Jon Sanders was born in Kent. After Cambridge University he studied film at the Slade School of Art under Thorold Dickinson. He has had a long and distinguished career in the film industry, working as an editor, sound recordist (From Mao to Mozart, Oscar winning film about Isaac Stern’s tour of China), documentary maker (Then When the World Changed, co-directed with cameraman, Roger Deakins) and writer/director. His collaboration with the artist Lucia Noguiera Smoke (7 mins) 1996 is now part of the Tate Collection. His first feature film, Painted Angels (106 mins), starring Kelly McGillis and Brenda Fricker, which was about prostitution in the Wild West, premièred at the Rotterdam Film Festival and was released in the UK in 1999 by Artificial Eye. His second feature film Low Tide (86 mins) premiered at Curzon Soho in January 2008 and in 2012 Late September was released at the ICA London and independent screens around the country before being released on DVD by Verve Pictures.
"Pent-up emotions, sadness and congealed love are magnificently and subtly conveyed by a cast of obviously great experience...... "
★★★★ Jason Solomons MAIL ON SUNDAY
"Jon Sanders’ spellbinding Late September......the best kind of magic here, the kind that comes from a seemingly empty hat."
★★★★ Nigel Andrews FINANCIAL TIMES
"The discreet excellence of film-maker Jon Sanders is one of contemporary cinema’s best-kept secrets....the whole thing has the glow and patina of a classic."
Michael Church THE INDEPENDENT
"A small film about life and death that hits home more than most self-important big ones."
★★★★ Derek Malcolm
"Low Tide is a micro-budget drama about the last days of a terminally ill middle-aged woman. Distinguished by an elegant, very English sense of formal restraint but raging with raw, heartfelt emotion, the film is remarkably moving, sometimes unbearably so. It's well worth seeing."
"Low Tide offers a radical template for a revived British auteur cinema."
"One of the best, if not the best, no budget films I have ever seen."
"A startlingly new view of the old west...boldly original and beautifully acted."
Derek Malcolm, The Guardian
Phillip French, The Observer
"A graceful drama that does full justice to its subjects"